Staying Connected While Isolating and Observing Social Distancing
Purpose: The goal for this guide is to offer proactive steps to improve the emotional and mental safety and security of patients and staff. As well, it is our goal to heighten financial confidence of our client organization through the provision of innovative solutions that work to meet the mental health needs of current and new behavioral health patients and the caregivers serving these populations. Through these efforts we strive to stabilize overall mental health services for communities.
General Behaviors Recommended for Everyone by the World Health Organization:
- Avoid a constant stream of COVID-19 news and information. Seek a reliable source of factual information and limit the time spent watching coverage to a couple times a day. Constant exposure to COVID-19 information heightens anxiety and distress.
- Be kind and demonstrate empathy for individuals who are believed to have and who have received a positive test for COVID-19.
- Avoid stigma by refraining from identifying people by their sickness with COVID-19. Do not use terms like, “COVID-19 victim”, or “the diseased”. Instead, refer to these individuals as persons recovering from COVID-19.
- Practice protective measures: very frequent hand washing and hand hygiene, avoidance of touching your face, robust cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, and social distancing of 6 feet or greater, staying home if you are sick, and coughing and sneezing into a tissue or your elbow. Avoid individuals who are sick.
- Work to make a difference by safely reaching out to help others. Telephone neighbors to check on them. Support your community’s efforts to assist people in need.
- Emphasize positive messages, such as stories of patients who have recovered from COVID-19.
- Provide support and honor to healthcare professionals who are caring for individuals recovering from COVID-19 and their family members.
Recommendations for Healthcare Professionals from the World Health Organization:
- It is a normal feeling to have a sense of increased stress and pressure during this pandemic. Seeking guidance and help for your mental and physical health during this time is wise.
- Maximize your physical health through being excellent at self-care by:
- Enhancing your healthy diet
- Seeking regular exercise
- Getting 7-8 hours of sleep
- Practice mental health wellbeing by maintaining contact with family and friends. Utilize stress reduction methods that are known to work for you (long walk, time with a pet, reading, music, meditation).
- Family and friends may avoid you due to stigma toward healthcare workers. Reach out to your colleagues and manager if you are experiencing stress and anxiety. These are normal feelings for front line health professionals. Utilize Diamond’s EAP program to seek for assistance to deal with anxiety and stress.
- Assess for added stressors among healthcare professionals. Examples may include:
- Fear of the unknown
- Disruption of normal routines
- Having children home due to school closures and lack of child care
- Assuming new roles in the home, including roles that are unfamiliar, like being the teacher
- Having increased household work like cooking daily meals at home and more required cleaning (Non-ordinary due to mandates to clean frequently touched surfaces)
- Financial stressors (spouse furloughed from work, covering childcare costs, increased costs for essential items)
- Having a colleague, friend, or family member who is recovering from COVID-19
- Experiencing the death of a patient or former patient
- Not having appropriate time to grieve personal and community loss
Assessment of patient status in the new normal of COVID-19 in the nation. Patient assessments for anxiety, depression, and homicide / suicide risk are appropriate during this pandemic because pre-existing mental illness places patients at risk for deterioration of current health status. Assessment focus expectations include:
- Assess for increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Assess for current coping and personal strengths and limitations.
- Addressing temporary losses. Example: not able to attend family get together, loss of ability to attend church services.
- Access to basic needs (food, basic supplies, social contacts, utilities).
- Does the patient have available medications and access to medication supply?
- Does the patient have availability and access to therapy sessions due to shelter at home orders, and ability of providers to provide care via telehealth systems.
Provide patient with current, relevant education on COVID-19 that includes:
- Methods for prevention of COVID-19: hand washing, not touching face, cleaning frequently used surfaces, avoiding persons who are coughing or appear sick.
- Keeping routines that stabilize mood (Example: utilize online workout sessions in lieu of going to the gym, connecting with family members via Facetime opposed to face-to-face contact).
- Stay current with local health department recommendations, while limiting constant streaming of news feeds and ensuring they are receiving news from reliable sources.